Dobrý deň! Excuse the Czech (which simply means “good day”)—I’m currently posting this entry from my hotel room in beautiful Prague, and I couldn’t help but showcase my new language skills. You see, I have been here for a summer program on Crime, Law and Psychology since Saturday morning. The city is absolutely breathtaking and everyone on the course seems very energetic and friendly. However, despite having made several new friends already, I noticed something rather concerning from the very first day. You might have already guessed from the title of this entry what I’m on about: the existence of cliques.

About 95% of the people on the program are postgraduate students, meaning they range from about 21 years of age to 40. I am at least two years younger than everyone (in other words, I’m literally the baby of the bunch), so my first expectation upon arriving at the summer school venue was to meet dynamic individuals willing to mingle with anyone. My view was that given their age and experience, surely my fellow classmates should be mature, open and accepting. Wrong.

I found that although the majority are perfectly nice to talk to, they tend to stick to their own nationality groups. Having never been one to confine myself to just one party, I’ve befriended a whole range of people from all over the globe, yet quite a few I hang out with are part of Uncle Sam’s army (I’m the proud maple syrup-consuming, ice hockey-playing neighbor). I’ve come to realize that their everyday topics in conversation are strictly American, which makes it hard for anyone not living in the United States to join in the banter. Meanwhile, most of the Europeans keep to themselves, as do some Asians. (Note: the keywords are “most” and “some”. I don’t want to generalize.) The summer program’s organizers even arranged a “happy hour” session the other day in hopes of giving us the chance to break out of our usual groups and mix with others, but at the end of the day, everyone just clung to the same friends. Sounding familiar? Think high school.

It seems like cliques never go out of fashion regardless of age and generation. I don’t know the reason—nobody does. To discuss this with the appropriate literature would be to refer to the research done by social psychologists across the ages (see Tajfel and Sherif’s work) on inter-group hostility. Yet in a practical sense, we might want to ask ourselves why such things happen from a personal perspective. Are we just more comfortable talking to others alike? Or are there other external (or even internal) explanations?

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.